Morning Consult: Jewell: Coal-Lease Freeze Could Be Longer Than 3 Years

The Interior Department’s three-year moratorium on new coal leases on federal land could be longer than three years, Secretary Sally Jewell told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

The length of the coal-lease freeze will depend on how long it takes the department to conduct its review of the federal coal-lease program, which Jewell estimated would take three years. But she warned that depending on the circumstances, some reviews have taken “six or seven years.”

Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) expressed doubt that it could take three years to conduct the study, saying two years should be more reasonable. He asked Jewell to commit to finishing in no more than three years, but Jewell said she couldn’t make promises for her successor.

“My position here will end in 11 months,” she said, adding that she hopes to have an interim report on the study’s progress finished before the next president takes office.

Jewell defended the moratorium’s economic impact, noting that it only applies to new leases and that “no mine should close” and “no plant should close.”

“In terms of coal jobs and ongoing coal production, we do not believe there will be an impact, and we’ve made provisions for those individual circumstances where there might be,” Jewell said.